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NLDS notebook: Colorado Rockies depending on former Tampa Bay Ray Jason Hammel in pivotal Game 3

PHILADELPHIA — The Rockies have made their riveting run due to a series of unexpected contributions from unusual sources.

And with a chance to gain the advantage over the Phillies and keep going as the series returns to Denver for the next two games, they'll be looking to one of the most unlikeliest — former Rays RHP Jason Hammel, who will start pivotal Game 3 on Saturday.

"He has been a model of consistency for us since the All-Star break," manager Jim Tracy said. "There is no doubt in my mind he is the guy that should pitch Game 3 of this playoffs."

The Rays traded Hammel to the Rockies (for minor-leaguer RHP Aneury Rodriguez) on the last day of spring training, choosing to keep RHP Jeff Niemann. It worked out well for all parties, as Hammel went 10-8 with a 4.33 ERA and earned the start ahead of All-Star RHP Jason Marquis.

After going 7-15 with a 5.90 over three seasons of occasional use as a starter and reliever for the Rays, Hammel said the key was just getting a chance.

"It was huge," he said. "That's what I was looking for. I was hoping to get that in Tampa (Bay), but they're stockpiled over there with arms. Obviously I wish the best to them, but I was given a great opportunity here and cashed in on it. Definitely miss the fellas, but I'm on a great squad right now and I'm happy here."

Miscellany: The Phillies will choose their Game 3 starter today. If it's RHP Pedro Martinez, his last start in frigid temperatures was April 17, 2003 — first-pitch 33 degrees — vs. the Rays, and he threw seven shutout innings. … Rockies C Yorvit Torrealba hit just two homers this season, the last on May 6. "Everybody (in the dugout) was surprised," he said of Thursday's homer. … Thursday's crowd of 46,528 was the largest in Citizens Bank Park history. … Rockies starter RHP Aaron Cook got his first postseason win and second postseason hit.

Off to St. Louis: Dodgers pinch-hitter Jim Thome is looking forward to Game 3 on Saturday in St. Louis, about 150 miles from where he grew up in Peoria, Ill.

"I've always said St. Louis is probably, fans-wise, one of the better baseball cities in the game," he said. "It's fun to go there and feel that atmosphere toward baseball."

Loyalties were split in Thome's family, with one of his brothers rooting for the Cardinals and another brother and his father being Cubs fans. Peoria was divided nearly down the middle with fans of both teams.

"I'm proud to call it home," said Thome, who now makes his off­season home in the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale. "I'm glad I grew up in Peoria because it's salt-of-the-earth people. They're genuine."

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

NLDS notebook: Colorado Rockies depending on former Tampa Bay Ray Jason Hammel in pivotal Game 3 10/08/09 [Last modified: Thursday, October 8, 2009 11:25pm]
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